What sustainability efforts could learn from Angry Birds

(This is Part 2, which explores how gamification can “green” employee behavior in order to achieve business goals.  Last month, Part 1 explored how gamification can attract customers and “green” their behavior.) This post also published by GreenBiz.com.

What do Angry Birds and sustainability have in common?

Playing  Angry Birds hooks people, focusing them on developing special skills to achieve ever more difficult goals. That type of game-playing can be a central tool to help companies get their employees involved in delivering on firm-wide sustainability goals from zero waste to greening the supply chain.

Innovative companies are using gamification to re-image work and drive unprecedented engagement across the entire organization”, according to JP Rangaswami, keynote speaker for upcoming Gamification Summit June 19-21.  This is increasingly true for one of business’ top issues – sustainability.

What on Earth is Gamification?

It’s playing games with a purpose, in this case, employee engagement in greening the workplace. Playing electronic games is addictive. It hooks people at the level of their basic social drives for achievement, appreciation, reciprocity, and friendly competition. It grabs attention on social media and speeds up companies’ sustainability processes. In business, people compete individually and in teams for points, prizes, and recognition. They become engaged and motivated.

Why Do We Care?

93% of business leaders identified sustainability as important to their company’s future success, according to a recent survey. They are just looking for ways to make it work. Gamification is one answer. For example, companies using CloudApps’ gamification tools to engage employees in corporate sustainability efforts can save up to 10% on their annual costs of energy, water, waste and business travel, improving their ROI in less than six months.

Seven Gamification Strategies to Increase Employee Engagement in Sustainability

Cloudapps has shared their roadmap as follows:

    1. Align employees’ personal sustainability goals with corporate sustainability vision and goals
    2. Visibly allocate and reward in connection with sustainability budgets and targets
    3. Bring a fun, innovative and competitive approach through the use of game mechanics that includes challenges, badges, levels, rewards and leader boards
    4. Deliver practical sustainability challenges relevant to an employee’s experience
    5. Bring a social networking style of collaboration and communication that drives successful employee-led sustainability initiatives
    6. Harvest employees’ sustainability and cost reduction ideas
    7. Create a workplace ethic that attracts and retains the very best employees

Here’s how very different types of companies apply a mix of these strategies to improve their bottom line and the environment.

Practically Green, a digital community, helps organizations become greener by using technology and social networking to educate, motivate and reward employees for making green changes to their work and home life.  They give points for over 400 different green behaviors, from commuting by bike, buying local produce, to switching to e-bills.

SAP, the German software giant, has a number of green games.  One is a carpooling game called TwoGo, aimed at making carpooling easy and socially cool. Bike at Work lets employees earn points, get feedback, give useful tips to their friends, see calories burned and other fun, motivational stuff.

Deloitte, the consulting firm, has developed a Business Simulation Game that enables players to experiment with sustainable initiatives for their client companies in a safe game setting.  The game allows players make mistakes and try again without losing face. This direct experience accelerates the learning about, and adoption of, sustainability strategies.

Through events like the upcoming Gamification Summit and Coursera’s free online Gamification course offered by Wharton, we’re betting that more companies follow the lead of these pioneers.

While some critics claim that green gamification is a passing fad, here are two leaders who are convinced of its lasting value.

Gamification encourages more lasting behavior change than traditional communications and training efforts because it is simple, personal and relevant, trackable, and shareable.  – Susan Hunt Stevens of Practically Green

Every employee is the head of sustainability. It’s the only way to achieve the aggressive business and environmental growth that we have planned over the next 10-30 years. Frankly, we can’t do it unless everyone is involved.  Emma Peacock of Unilever Australia/New Zealand

 

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3 Responses to What sustainability efforts could learn from Angry Birds

  1. Vreni, great double post which confirms early predictions of gamification’s impact. I’m adding Jane McGonigal’s name to your list of resources and her new company Social Chocolate, dedicated to “making worldchanging games powered by the science of positive emotion and social connection.”
    I wrote about the key factors of game psychology and organization change here
    http://c21org.typepad.com/21st_century_organization/2010/05/game-change-a-better-world-wow.html
    with links to Jane’s superb TED talk, a must see. She is a “mover and shaker” to know.
    Victoria

  2. Sara Stefanski says:

    Great post Vreni! I love the idea of gamification and am trying to attend the summit next week. It’s so important to make sustainability something positive and even fun for people – not an additional chore or task. Looking forward to more of your writing!

  3. I belive although gamification is a great way of engaging people I think it also downplays the significance of what it is being used for. Its great as a tool for teaching concepts but it should also be followed up with a number of other avenues to ensure the underlying message is understood and not overhsadowed by entertainment.

    I am impressed to see a number of games coming out that (like Anno 2070) which use ecological impact as a game mechanic and are teaching how to manage resources and impacts in a stragetic sense to accentuate the message the developers are trying to get across.

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